Category Archives: Poetry

The Teacher

How appropriate that this Pentecost Sunday is Grandma Rasmussen’s 95th birthday! She is a prayerful Pentecostal passionate about equipping the church for mission with her gifts, has taught God’s Word across language barriers, and her love for me and for the Bible has had a profound spiritual influence on my life. Five years ago, I shared nine lessons she’d taught me. This year, I’m sharing a quasi-poem I wrote in honor of The Teacher.

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After two weeks of helping her write her story – a special bonding time for us

Her fingertips pull the dough towards her,
Palms press it away,
Hands give it a quick quarter turn.
“Hannah, would you like to try now?”
Pull, press, turn.
Her skin is soft like bread dough,
flour fills in the wrinkles.
“Don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time.
I’ve had 87 years to practice!”

1947 -- Mom in Barnum -- second year of teaching 300 dpi

1947: In her home-economics classroom during her second year of teaching

I am one of her many home-economics students.
She taught me to iron, to make beds,
Cinnamon rolls and monkey bread.
When the family needed dough,
She kneaded dough.
This home economics teacher’s got muscles.

She taught me it takes a strong woman to feed a family.

When we visit,
she’ll celebrate with turkey dinner, my dad’s favorite,
keep frozen donuts in the fridge for my aunt,
set out Grandpa’s favorite tea,
and make oatmeal for me.
She says, “Glad you liked it.”

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c. 1993: “Helping Grandma dust”

“My special Hannah…
I remember babysitting you when you were just a baby.”
I remember when I was a kid
we flew, her and I, in a six-seater plane
to Kigoma, and the best lake in the world.
When my mom had baby twins,
she spent three months with us in Africa
“Glad I could be of help.”

She taught me a helping hand is a hardworking one.

“3 dozen rolls, we’ll triple the recipe.”
She was a math teacher too.
Taught the grandkids times tables with her able mind,
Taught me all of seventh grade pre-algebra in a month.

She taught me smart money is invested where it counts.

The turkey pan was from their wedding
And who knows how many times she’s reused her Ziplocs.
Up to half their income was going to their church,
their missionary sons,
their grandkids’ college education.

2010-07-31 61st anniversary

2010: 61st wedding anniversary

She taught us it isn’t giving unless you give something up.
To put my dad through college,
they sold the retirement house Grandpa built.

She taught us love is faithful,
Still giggling at my grandpa
six kids and 61 years later.
“My, isn’t he so handsome?”

She taught us love is full of faith.
She’s a licensed preacher too,
Sang me the books of the Bible song
And taught half of those books to pastors
in four Bible schools across Tanzania.

1995-11 -- with translator Unity in Mwanza, TZ

1995: teaching Bible school with translator in Tanzania

She taught us to pray.
Every morning her hands fold
“Lord, bless the Rasmussens…”
She tears up as she lists each family by name.
She prays for me over the phone,
“We’re so proud of how you’re serving God at Macalester.”
Gives me her favorite devotional and the Daily Bible
so we can read it each day together.

She taught me
It takes a strong woman to feed a family.
A helping hand is a hardworking one.
Smart money is invested where it counts.
It isn’t giving unless you give something up.
Love is full of faith.

She taught me to pray.
So let’s pray.
“Lord, bless this bread and the hands that prepared it.”

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c. 2004

You can learn more about my grandparents’ incredible ministry legacy in Faithful Servants: The Legacy of Virgil and Ruth Rasmussen, which includes their autobiographies, sermons, recipes, poems, and tributes from family and ministry partners.


Holes: Freedom, finals week, and Good Friday (spoken word video)

What do you get when you cross finals week with Holy Week? I wrote this spoken word piece around the end of the semester in college and performed it at a gospel party and an event raising awareness about modern-day slavery. In cultures where our importance is measured by how busy we are, we need to remember what my friend likes to say: “Don’t kill yourself over this. Jesus already died.” Here’s the full poem:

Holes

“We’re not competitive at this school. We care about our grades as our personal best.”
– Tour Guide

“Don’t even complain to me, girl. I haven’t written one word of my capstone yet. You think you’re busy? You ain’t got nothin’ on me.”
– Student

This is King of the Mountain backward,
we climb the social ladder by
digging ourselves the furthest into the depths of despair,
crown you,
King of the Pit.

But if you keep your head above
grounded
level
we will shame you
back to our level.

Until there is no one left
with two feet on the ground
to pull us out.

Hole-ier than thou
tunnel vision
creates division
everyone’s doing their own
drills
down, not across
filled with cross words
when we cross paths
we’re not even building subways,
just potholes.

If we
pull our heads out of the sand
wash our hands –
will we find it is a dirty trick,
are we in too deep now?

Stress
got us into this mess
pit power
overpowers
now
is it over?

Piles of sand
miles high
immobile mountain ranges
double the range
between us and the sun.

Just as we drag the last rescuer down
we find
we are our own gravediggers
slaving away for
the King of the Pit
we have buried them with us.

Somebody
better bloody
save us,
or God is dead.

Crown him
King of the Jews
thorny, poke fun.

Dead God:
some bloody
body
in the grave
with us.

My God, my God,
why have you
forsaken us?

Cry harkens
sky darkens,
earth quakes
faith shakes
the mountains.

Mountains fall into seas.
Sun enters pit, we see
the light
rays
fill weak with strength
holes empty
raised
from dead
holy week:

Grave robber
shames shame
stoops to our level
makes the high places low
builds a holy highway
through the Word on the cross.

Crown him
with life,
“King of kings”

God with us
blood and body
gave
calm trust and rest
saves
from stress
frees slaves
from power of pit.

But we’ll have none of it.
Give me a shovel.
I got myself into this mess,
I’ll dig myself out.

 


Living well (music video & chords)

During a stressful season, God reminded me that all my commitments were things I was passionate about and called to: I was “living the dream”. While praying, these lyrics came to me. I began drawing on the living water during that season, daily listing what I was grateful for and singing this song. Instead of a scarcity mindset, I began noticing abundance and relying on Jesus’ strength instead of my own.

When you’re in a hostile climate, alone and overwhelmed, let this song remind you to draw on your source of life. Then you will bloom in surprising places!

You can find lyrics and chords here.


Human (spoken word video)

Sexual harrassment threatens to make us beasts and objects, but we’re human. I share my journey of healing and forgiving. Performed live at Slam Africa.


Someone to come home to (spoken word video)

A third culture kid dreams of finding a soul mate who understands where she comes from, but realizes there’s only one ultimate home. Performed live at Poetry Spot Kenya.


Unthinkable: spoken word for Good Friday

This Good Friday, join me in meditating on the unthinkable humiliation God endured to reconcile with humanity. Listen to the spoken word and watch the lyric video:

Click here to watch it on YouTube. Here is the full poem to read more slowly:

Unthinkable

True Israel wrestled with God
drinking judgment upon himself.
Defeated the devil in the garden
resolving to ascend to the throne
by a thorny coronation.

Soldiers arrested
the Commander of heaven’s armies
who healed the enemy’s slashed ear
even now, “Let him hear.”

The Friend of sinners
friendless.

The teachers of the law
condemned one greater than Moses.
The high priest charged
God
with blasphemy.

The Lord submitted silently to torture.
Do not the miracles and the scrolls speak loud enough
of who I AM?
If these clashing counterfeits outweigh
divine dreams,
my testimony, the voice from heaven, and the dove…
what is truth?

The powerful washed their feet
the powerless washed his hands of it.

The Almighty accepted help
inviting someone to carry his cross
and follow him
for real.

The carpenter’s son
nailed to the wood
arms stretched wide
in a willing embrace.

Lamb born in a stable
no bone broke
spotless became sin
righteousness became curse.

Stripped –
the one whose robes filled the temple.
“Don’t tear the underwear”
while the holy curtain ripped.

Jesus’ manhood uncovered for all to see
the shame of Adam on a leafless tree
at the crossroads of all time.

Again refused an angel rescue team
to gain the kingdom.
Would save everyone,
save himself.

The guilty condemned the Judge
the Convict issued a royal pardon.
Eternal Life
flanked by murderers.

“I thirst,”
said the well of Living Water
and sipped at cheap wine.
They pierced his side
the wineskin burst forth
water and blood
our passage into his new life.
The bread of heaven
sliced to nourish our bodies.
L’chayim.

He whose breath
animated clay with spirit
gasped for oxygen
limbs throbbing to lift his lungs
committed his spirit
with his last breath.

The Author finished.
The Light of the world
went out at midday.
The earth shuddered
at thought of receiving its Maker
dust to dust.
Grave’s guards fled their posts
as holiness entered Hades
tied up the strong man
and plundered his looted lair.
Jailbreak.
Jesus loved us to hell and back.

The eternal loving union
of the universe
endured agonizing separation.
To reunite with his creation,
God was godforsaken.


The Reversal: A Christmas Poem

To understand the beauty of Christmas, it helps to know the backstory from the beginning. To view a larger PDF, click here.

The Reversal A Christmas Poem


Love’s Take on Valentines

Love's Take on Valentines


Of two trees

The pale eucalyptus                            Look
drives directly heavenward
untouchable – until
a sprawling textured branch
intercepts it.

The eucalyptus bends
its trunk around the surprise.          Breathe
An embrace or bracing against
the other’s pressure?            Feel his hand in yours
They creak in the wind.                    Listen

Having touched on the way, Slow your sindikizo
they continue growing,               At the gate,
one upward, one outward.      separate for home


Perfect Timing

Shooting from inside a moving car by Jenny Mealing via Flickr (CC by 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/9Yvaev

Ever last minute,
family weighs
2 suitcases exactly 50 pounds each
against 3 hours early to the airport.
Off like a herd of turtles
into Mombasa Road traffic
I drive
to squeeze
in the last moments together,
goodbye,
I love you.
See you on the other continent.

My passenger seat is empty
a tentative text that I’m in the area
since I know he works downtown.
A long shot.
As I pull away
he calls just leaving work
quick pick up line.
Discover we’re going the same direction
ready for home
delighted to have company.

Squeeze in a few moments together
before his bus stop
see you later
and we finish the journey alone
to rest at last.